Washington, June 4 (ANI): McMaster University researchers say that they have identified a specific class of pharmaceutical drugs that may be effective in treating babies vulnerable to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), because their mothers smoked during pregnancy.
The researchers point out that exposure of the foetus to nicotine results in the inability to respond to decreases in oxygen-known as hypoxia-which may result in a higher incidence of SIDS.
They say that experiments on rats have shown that the diabetic medication 'glibenclamide' can reverse the effects of nicotine exposure, increasing the newborn's ability to respond to hypoxia and likely reducing the incidence of SIDS.
"During birth the baby rapidly changes its physiology and anatomy so that it can breathe on its own. The stress of being born induces the release of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline-collectively called catecholamines-from the adrenal glands. During birth, these hormones in turn signal the baby's lungs to become ready for air breathing," says Josef Buttigieg, lead author who conducted his research as a PhD graduate student in the department of Biology.
During the study, the researchers administered the drug glibenclamide in laboratory rats, and found that their adrenal glands were able to respond to oxygen deprivation, something that reversed the lethality of hypoxia.
"Our initial goal was really to understand how the nervous system regulates oxygen sensitivity of cells in the adrenal gland at a basic research level," says Colin Nurse, academic advisor on the study and a professor in the department of Biology.
"We speculated that chemicals released from nerves might interact with adrenal cells and cause them to lose oxygen sensitivity. It turns out that nicotine mimics the effects of one of these chemicals, thereby allowing us to test the idea. The present study was significant in that it led to a mechanistic understanding of how nicotine works in this context," the researcher added.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience. (ANI)